Merck’s anti-COVID pill shows promise, local health expert says

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 5:31 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The drug maker Merck is asking for FDA authorization for their pill which would be the first oral anti-viral for treating COVID. It’s a treatment for those who have the virus as opposed to a preventative measure like the vaccine. Local health officials are looking at a possible timeline for when the pill could be available if approved by the FDA.

It’s a potential game changer in the midst of the pandemic.

“These pills have only been studied in those who have not gotten the vaccine, but it’s an advance,” said Dr. Rodger MacArthur. “Folks don’t get as sick when they take the pill.”

MacArthur is the infectious disease specialist with the Medical College of Georgia and he says data it shows the pill reduced the need of hospitalizations by roughly 50 percent.

“The excitement is that we can develop drugs that have activity,” he said.

He says its inhibits the virus stopping it from replicating and less virus lowers the need for inflammatory responses.

“I’m most excited about the speed with which there appears to be an effectiveness targeting COVID,” he said.

He says the number one way to prevent COVID is taking the vaccine, but for those who are still hesitant this pill could be more convenient and continue to decrease hospitalizations and death rates.

“The early word is they’re not seeing any concerning signal. The technology is in place. We can do this and we can work to really reduce the number of cases and in fact eliminate the virus,” he said.

Local health officials say there are still lots of lingering questions about distributions and when doctors can write prescriptions. They say the first step is waiting for approval from FDA which could come as soon as Thanksgiving.

Doctors at AU Health tell us they’re doing research on three different pills to treat COVID. The patient would take the pill for five days. Right now, their pill is not approved.

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